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From Wilner’s Hotline:

Apple’s (Uncertain) Interest

We interrupt coverage of coronavirus and a player boycott to bring a report from the media space that involves the Pac-12.

Readers may recall a news story from April, when the SportsBusiness Daily revealed the conference was discussing a media rights partnership with Apple.

That report, which was based on comments to the SBD by Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken, sparked chatter about a blockbuster deal that would rescue Pac-12 athletic departments from their budget woes and justify the conference’s strategy to own 100 percent of the networks.

Here we are, four months later – or is it four years later? – and a report from Sportico examines Apple’s plans to acquire the rights to live sports – or lack of a plan.

From author Jacob Feldman:

“Approaching a $2 trillion market cap, Apple has the theoretical means to do just about anything it wants regarding sports content. Its nearly $200 billion in available cash alone would be, on paper, more than enough to purchase every NFL team—twice. And yet, nearly 500 days since Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company’s Apple TV+ streaming service, he has not yet landed exclusive rights to any sports action. Hence the intrigue.”

The article makes specific mention of the company’s conversations with the Pac-12, but not in a manner that indicates a deal.

Quite the opposite, in fact:

“Apple has recently been tied to speculation about the Pac-12, in particular, with Sports Business Daily reporting in April that executives had expressed interest in the conference’s primary package. But two sources doubted that the West Coast league could provide the type of introduction to live sports Apple is looking for, questioning its international appeal, specifically.”

That has been the Hotline’s central question each time speculation surfaces about a potential Pac-12 deal with one of the tech giants.

If Facebook, Amazon or Apple decides to plunge into the live sports market as a primary rightsholder, why would it choose the Pac-12?

In our view, the legacy media companies that have expanded their digital presence – ESPN/ABC, Fox and CBS – are the most likely partners for the conference starting in 2024.

We’ll know much more about the Pac-12’s strategy next year, after the NFL negotiates its new deals. At that point, we’ll see who’s involved … and how much cash they have left over for college football. – Jon Wilner.